Ethics and Values in Industrial-Organizational Psychology

By Joel Lefkowitz | Go to book overview

9
Values in Psychology

In 1951 a young African-American social psychologist at the City College of New York, Kenneth B. Clark, was asked by the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People's (NAACP) Legal Defense and Education Fund (LDEF) to chair a committee of social scientists who would write a legal brief in support of the NAACP-LDEF's lawsuit against the Topeka, Kansas, Board of Education. The social science statement they prepared, The Effects of Segregation and the Consequences of Desegregation, played an instrumental role in the Supreme Court's unanimous decision on May 17, 1954, favoring the plaintiffs in Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka (347 U. S. 483), which (eventually) led to the desegregation of public schools in the United States (Jackson, 1998). The content of the statement consisted of a review of the social science literature which supported the conclusions that (a) there were no differences between the races in ability to learn; (b) legally segregated education caused psychological damage to African-American children; and (c) desegregation could be implemented relatively smoothly, even in the South.

The account of the committee's work is replete with descriptions of how they tried “to maintain the persona of objective scientific expert while writing for the ultimate adversarial forum—a Supreme Court hearing” (Jackson, 1998, p. 150). The final version of the statement begins:

The problem of the segregation of racial and ethnic groups constitutes one of the major problems facing the American people today. It seems desirable, therefore, to summarize the contributions which contemporary social science can make toward its resolution. There are, of course, moral and legal issues involved with respect to which the signers of the present statement cannot speak with

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